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Eight selected to make St. Pete Pier proposals

Closed and slated for demolition, odds favor that the city’s inverted pyramid pier will get a second life.

Only two of the eight design teams selected to submit pier designs say they will demolish the long-time city icon. The other six plan to re-imagine the pier, using the building’s shell and the large concrete blocks it sits atop, which city studies show are in good condition.

A selection committee on Friday chose the eight finalists from 16 teams that submitted qualifications to be considered for the $33 million project. The finalists each will receive a $30,000 stipend to produce and submit designs by Dec. 15.

“It looks to be heavily leaning toward renovation, but it doesn’t mean something new won’t win out,” said James Jackson, city architect for Tampa who serves on the committee.

Comprised of architects, a marine science professor, Pinellas County’s economic development director and others, the committee evaluated competing teams on experience, design approach and whether they included local companies in their lineup, among other criteria.

Local company h2hold was rejected because its application did not show licensed architects within the team.

Tampa company Cooper Jackson Smith’s vision of a small-scale harbor village was considered well wide of the mark for a city that has limited development on its famed downtown waterfront.

“Good company, good references, but just kind of missed the boat on what we’re looking for in our project approach,” said Mike Connors, public works administrator.

Perhaps the biggest name casualty was Perkins and Will. Its portfolio includes the Shanghai Natural History Museum, but its application was nondescript, committee members said.

“They could do it with their eyes closed, but they seem to have not taken their time to put any thought into it,” said Melanie Lenz, vice president of development for the Tampa Bay Rays. “It seems to have come off a conveyor belt.”

Among those making the cut was FR-EE, which includes St. Petersburg firm Mesh Architecture. Also shortlisted was the St. Pete Design Group, which includes Dali Museum designer Yann Weymouth, Harvard Jolly, which designed the inverted pyramid, and Wannemacher Jensen.

“The competition is very strong,” said Weymouth. “We are absolutely thrilled.”

This is the city’s second attempt to modernize its signature waterfront structure. A five-year selection process resulted in the selection of Michael Maltzan’s Lens design. But that was rejected by voters in a referendum in 2013 after the city spent more than $4 million on the project.

“This is a daunting process in some ways we are facing, given the history of what got us to this point,” Mayor Rick Kriseman told the evaluation committee. “Whether it’s newly designed or newly renovated, I look forward to seeing that process happen.”

Residents have expressed concern that the pier project is running ahead of a $500,000 study to produce a long-term plan for the whole city waterfront. That study is not scheduled to be completed before July, well after City Council will be asked to approve a contract with the winning team.

Connors said AECOM, the firm conducting the study, will be incorporating a pier into the long-range plan.

“I don’t think it’s the tail wagging the dog as much as it is that the pier is a given,” Connors said.

Following the Dec. 15 deadline, the committee will review designs to ensure they are feasible before the public is asked to choose three favorites in a non-binding poll.

The selection committee and Kriseman will recommend one of those three to City Council, which would have to approve the design and construction contracts. Whether new or renovated, the pier is scheduled to reopen at the end of 2017.

Here’s the eight firms chosen and their design approach:

- ah-ha Design Group - demolish and build new

- Alfonso Architects - demolish and build new

- FR-EE - renovate

- ASD and Rogers Partners - renovate

- Ross Barney - renovate

- St. Pete Design Group - renovate

- VOA Associates - renovate

- W Architecture - renovate

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Twitter: @codonnellTBO

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